If you follow me on Twitter, you probably have noticed I have a deep passion in history, which comes across in the sheer volume of history related facts that I retweet. I'm not alone in this passion, as indeed my son shares the same interest. He loves to read about it, to visit exhibits, but most of all to “experience” it.
He’s sometimes a bit disappointed with moving to New Zealand – England after all has history going back thousands of years, there are battlefields galore, and sites dating back to Roman or Norman times. New Zealand in contrast was only colonised a few hundred years ago by Maori pioneers, with colonial Britain arriving in the 19th Century.
But when he heard that there was a World War II bunker at Baring Hill, near where we live in Wainuiomata, he knew he wanted to visit it. We knew it was there, there’s a basic website warning us it’s a moderately difficult walk. However there's no real information on the bunker itself, and Google doesn’t really provide us with much more to go on.
England itself is filled with remnants of fortifications thrown together to defend the country in a war that (thankfully) never came. Likewise the Baring Hill bunker doesn't exist in history books because no documented history ever happened there, and yet it still existed in some form never the less.
This meant we just simply didn't know what to expect. We still had images in our mind from our educated guesses. We knew there was a lot of fear during World War II of invasion from Japan, and looking at a map, the position would overlook Wellington's harbour. Thus we expected,
• it to be the site of a giant fortification like those used by Germany to make “Fortress Europe”.
• it was probably the site of a gun station – we didn't expect to see a cannon still there, but maybe some fixtures / turntable to show it was once there.
• soldiers (maybe some form of home guard) would drive to the bunker to “do a shift” and then return home at the end of it
In other words, something a bit like this,
All the information we had to go on ...